The state's highest court on Monday upheld the murder convictions of a Colorado Springs woman who let her three children burn to death in the hopes of cashing in on insurance payoffs.
Deborah Nicholls was found guilty on more than a dozen counts in 2008, roughly five years after the deadly blaze took the lives of 3-year-old Sierra, 5-year-old Sophia and 11-year-old Jay Nicholls. She and her then-husband, Timothy Nicholls, were addicted to methamphetamine and deep in debt when he set their home in the Village Seven neighborhood aflame, jurors learned during his 2007 trial.
The ruling means Deborah Nicholls has few options for continuing to challenge her convictions.
Once the Colorado Supreme Court issues a decision, a party in the case may ask the court to hear the appeal again or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court - if the case applies to federal law, said Jon Sarche, a spokesman for the state's judicial branch.
Deborah Nicholls' trial followed a November 2007 grand jury indictment, according to a statement from the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office. She is serving life in prison, without the possibility of parole, at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility. Her convictions include three counts of first-degree murder.
In 2012, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld Deborah Nicholls' convictions in a unanimous unpublished opinion. About a year later, the state Supreme Court agreed to review her request for a new trial.
She argued her ex-husband's former cellmate in jail, who listened as he detailed the couple's involvement in the children's deaths, should not have been permitted to testify during her trial, according to the Colorado Supreme Court's decision, which was published online.
The cellmate told jurors that the couple spent months planning the fire. He also testified that Timothy Nicholls admitted to covering the furniture with a flammable solvent before coaxing the children onto the furniture with snacks so they would get the liquid on their pajamas before igniting the blaze, according to the decision.
Timothy Nicholls, who is serving a life-sentence at Sterling Correctional Facility, has also made multiple attempts to challenge his arson and murder convictions. In 2014, 4th Judicial District Judge G. David Miller rejected his request for a new trial, tossing arguments that he was poorly served by his defense attorney and that advances in forensic science raised questions about the methods an expert used to conclude the fires were intentionally set.
Since then, the Colorado Court of Appeals has affirmed Miller's decision, said Denver attorney Randy Canney, who represented Timothy Nicholls in the request. The Colorado Supreme Court then declined to review Miller's ruling, Canney said.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108